AHA Foundation, a leading nonprofit advocating for human rights, gender equality, and freedom of expression, has just published a study shedding new light on the prevalence, distribution, and impact of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in the U.S., 2015-2019.
Led by data and FGM/C expert Sean Callaghan, this study breaks new ground in understanding FGM/C in the U.S. and it will be invaluable to frontline professionals likely to encounter FGM/C cases, community leaders, legislators, and all others dedicated to ending this abusive practice.
The study builds upon previous methodologies used by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but takes them further by factoring in the effects of migration on the practice of FGM/C. The resulting report provides highly precise data on the practice’s prevalence, distribution, and impact.
Not taking into account acculturation that takes place over time in immigrant communities, the study found that an estimated 577,000 women and girls were impacted by FGM/C in 2019. But even the more conservative estimate, taking into account migration and acculturation, suggests that at least 384,000 women and girls were living with FGM/C in 2019, while 31,000 girls were at risk.
The accuracy and level of detail provided in this report are unprecedented, and the findings point to the crucial need for robust, targeted programs geared towards preventing FGM/C and supporting survivors and strong state legislation. Federal anti-FGM/C legislation, while necessary, is not enough.
Notably, 91% of those estimated to be already living with FGM/C in the U.S. were born overseas, highlighting the need for support targeted to immigrant communities.
However, 58% of those at risk of future FGM/C in the new analysis were born in the U.S., emphasizing the importance of awareness and prevention efforts within American communities.
94% of the at-risk population were girls of elementary school age or younger, emphasizing the need to raise awareness in the education system and to provide training for pediatric healthcare professionals.
The population estimated to be living with FGM/C in the U.S. is ethnically diverse—including those with Egyptian, Ethiopian, Nigerian, Somali, and Indonesian backgrounds—while the largest proportion of girls at risk of being forced to undergo future FGM/C has ancestral ties to the wider Horn of Africa, including the Somali, Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Sudanese communities.
AHA Foundation’s primary goal for the research is to highlight the central need to prevent FGM/C in the United States and to provide support to survivors living with its impacts.
To address this alarming problem, AHA Foundation emphasizes the continued importance of state anti-FGM/C legislation. While federal laws ban the practice, state laws send a strong message that FGM/C is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. These laws are needed to provide essential tools for education, outreach, and support for survivors. While prevention is the best way to end FGM/C, as a last resort, state laws increase the likelihood of perpetrators being brought to justice.
In addition to using the data for their own programmatic efforts to address FGM/C in the United States, AHA Foundation will make targeted, community-level data available to local professionals working with impacted populations to amplify efforts at ending the practice and implementing programs that improve the lives of those who have undergone the procedure.
AHA Foundation is committed to raising awareness, advocating for policy changes, providing resources to eradicate FGM/C in the United States and around the world, protecting the rights and well-being of women and girls, and ensuring a future free from this harmful practice.
Note: You can also watch a special webinar given by Sean and AHA’s Senior Director Amanda Parker that accompanied the launch of the report and delved into its findings. Watch here.
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About AHA Foundation
AHA Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting human rights, gender equality, and freedom of expression. Founded in 2007 by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a renowned human rights activist and author, AHA works to empower individuals and societies to live free from oppression and fear.